Our March 28th Best Practices Forum is designed to highlight strategic innovations that close achievement gaps while raising overall student performance, and Dr. Mark Benigni, superintendent of Meriden Public Schools, has taken the lead on some interesting new initiatives! Superintendent Benigni has a strong relationship with the Meriden Federation of Teachers, and they work together to create a culture of collaboration. Below is a sneak peek at one of many such initiatives they have undertaken.

In Meriden Public Schools, we have made Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) an important part of the district framework and culture. On PLC Thursdays, we convene our educators so that they can collaborate to review student data and strategize about raising achievement. We ask our teachers to spend this time comparing students to themselves—rather than to each other—so that our teachers can focus on the needs of each student as an individual.

Today, many are recognizing the value of creating professional learning environments within which teams can work together to support each other’s efforts. The struggle, however, is finding time to put aside for this type of collaboration. In Meriden, we have teamed up with our union to bring PLCs to our schools every week. By shifting the schedules of our students, teachers, and parents, we have managed to set aside critical time to build a professional learning space for our educators.

  • On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, students start their days slightly earlier and end slightly later, thereby gaining extra learning time, which is exchanged for an early dismissal day on Thursdays.
  • At the same time, our educators’ schedules are shifted so that the day ends earlier on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This time saved is then shifted to Thursday afternoon, when the students are let out early, so that staff can stay later as a Professional Learning Community.
  • Additionally, we ask our parents to shift their schedules in order to accommodate PLC Thursdays. We ask them to recognize that they are valuable members of the community who also play a critical role in improving student learning.

When all of us work together, the result is that we are able to create a collaborative and professional culture where teachers have the time and support they need to examine student work and improve teaching through data analysis. They have the opportunity to work together, utilize each other’s feedback, and engage in discussions about professional practice. Rather than simply collecting and compiling student data, Meriden educators use PLC Thursdays as a chance to engage with the information and develop real strategies for raising student performance on an individualized basis.

Want to hear more about this and other initiatives that Dr. Benigni has undertaken? You can hear him on Edutalk! Also, he and Erin Benham, the president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers, will be presenting at our Best Practices Forum on March 28th.  For a chance to learn about best practices, and to share your own ideas with Connecticut education leaders, register now!